This Homecoming weekend, the 1986 Penn football team will return to Franklin Field in honor of its 10-0 campaign 30 years ago. As today’s Quakers keep the hope of an undefeated Ivy season alive, the visitors may be able to offer some inspiration.
Penn (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) enters the weekend having won its first three Ancient Eight contests by an average of 24 points. Brown (2-4, 1-2), however, just logged its first conference victory last week — an overtime thriller against Cornell.
Attention this weekend will turn to the Bears’ Ivy-leading defense just as much as the Quakers’ Ivy-leading offense, presenting the biggest challenge to Penn’s offensive weaponry since the start of conference play.
That said, the Red and Blue boast the last two Ivy League Offensive Players of the Week in junior running back Tre Solomon — who has an Ivy-best 103 yards per game — and junior wide receiver Justin Watson — whose 99.5 yards per game and six touchdown top the Ancient Eight.
“Importantly, when you’re looking at our offense, there’s no doubt that we’re taking the opportunities that are there,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “And that’s the planning that goes in, week in and week out, to take advantage of who is going to be open and available on this particular play.”
“We just talk about, ‘do your job,’” Watson added. “No one person feels like they have to have a superhuman performance for us to get a win. ... It’s great knowing you don’t have to put a ton of pressure on yourselves and no one has to do something more than they’re capable of.”
Although Brown, is allowing just 306.7 yards per game, opponents are still scoring more than 28 points per contest against them — seventh in the Ivy League. Penn certainly has experience scoring on the Bears, putting up 35 in the first half against them last year en route to a 48-28 blowout.
If the Quakers’ nine-game Ivy winning streak were not enough to provide momentum into the weekend, they’ve also had a little extra time to get healthy. With last weekend’s game at Yale taking place on Friday night, the Red and Blue got a long week heading into Homecoming, a welcome respite before the final stretch of the season.
“Saturday, to finally have a day off and get to just watch college football, I think it’s just good for guys mentally,” Watson said. “As student-athletes, I know there’s all kinds of guys going through job interviews and all kinds of distractions. That extra day is huge to just take a deep breath, spread you work out and just enjoy yourself a little bit.”
Penn will tell you that there’s no scoreboard watching going on at this point in the season. Nonetheless, the Ivy race is already heating up.
After last weekend’s overtime win over Princeton, Harvard remains the sole undefeated team in the conference other than the Quakers. With Dartmouth on tap, the Crimson are easy favorites to keep their conference streak alive.
One week away from Princeton and two weeks out from Harvard, this weekend does not represent the most important game on the horizon for the Quakers. Still, with Homecoming on tap, University City has a chance to celebrate its teams — an atmosphere the Red and Blue hope to positively contribute to.
“Whether there’s 12,000 people out there or 8,000, we’re going to play as hard as we can and it’s going to be really fun seeing some guys who used to play,” Watson said.
Into this weekend, the important number is not 12,000 or 8,000, though. It’s four. Penn has four games left. Four more shots to defend its title. That process continues with Brown.
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